Ryan Lochte owns up to 'overexaggerated' robbery story

ByABC News
August 24, 2016, 7:20 AM

— -- Ryan Lochte says he "overexaggerated" what happened last Sunday at a Rio de Janeiro gas station and acknowledged it was his "immature behavior" that got him and U.S. swimming teammates Jimmy Feigen, Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz into a mess that consumed the final week of the Olympics.

Lochte, in portions of an interview with NBC's Matt Lauer that aired Saturday night, continued backtracking from a story that he initially described as an armed robbery. Police have said the swimmers vandalized a bathroom after a night of partying and that armed guards confronted them and asked them to pay for the damage.

"It's how you want to make it look like," Lochte told Lauer. "Whether you call it a robbery or whether you call it extortion or us just paying for the damages, we don't know. All we know is that there was a gun pointed in our direction and we were demanded to give money."

An 11-time Olympic medalist, Lochte, 32, also said that he had lied in telling NBC's Billy Bush the day after the incident that a gun had been cocked and pointed at his forehead. He said that he was still under the influence of alcohol when he talked to Bush.

"I definitely had too much to drink that night, and I was very intoxicated," Lochte said.

The swimmers offered 100 Brazilian reals ($31) and $20 to the guards to compensate for the damage, according to ABC News.

But Lochte said he understood that he was being told that the Americans had to pay for the damages or the police would be called.

At that point, Lauer said, "You're striking a deal. Is that fair?"

"We just wanted to get out of there," Lochte said, adding that the swimmers were frightened.

Lochte told Lauer?that his story had morphed from one about "the mean streets of Rio" to a negotiated settlement to cover up dumb behavior.

"That's why I'm taking full responsibility for it, because I overexaggerated the story," Lochte said. "If I had never done that, we wouldn't be in this mess."

Lochte returned to the United States during the week. Feigen followed Friday night, but only after reaching a deal with a judge to make a $10,800 payment. The trip home for Bentz and Conger was a little more eventful.

They boarded a plane Wednesday night to leave Rio, but authorities removed the pair from the jet. Police were not satisfied with their account of the robbery-that-wasn't and wanted more information. Bentz and Conger talked with authorities Thursday and were whisked through airport security and got on a plane that night. They were greeted back home with yard signs that said "Go Jack" and "Welcome Home."

Lauer asked Lochte how it felt to be home while the others could not leave the country as quickly.

"It hurt. I let my team down," Lochte said, choking back tears. "I don't want them to think I left them and left them dry. ... I just wanted to make sure they were home safe before I came out and talked. I'm embarrassed for myself, my family and especially those guys.

"I was immature and I made a mistake, and I'll definitely learn from this. I'm just really sorry. I took away from their accomplishments with this story."

Lochte, who dyed his hair white for the Games and had it turn a light shade of green from the pool, had changed his hair back to its regular shade of brown for the interview, which was conducted in New York. As Brazilian police investigated his robbery claim, and eventually held his teammates for questioning while they sorted out his story, he had tweeted he intended to dye it back.

He said he hoped to continue competitive swimming but acknowledged that it won't be his decision about whether he would be able to be part of the American team again. USA Swimming and the International Olympic Committee could issue sanctions. Lochte has said he hopes to compete at the Tokyo Games in 2020.

A portion of the interview with Lauer?first aired on "NBC Nightly News" and later during the network's Olympics broadcast.

Lochte said he regretted how the incident had tarnished Rio and the final week of the Olympics. He also gave an interview to Globo, Brazil's main broadcaster, on Saturday to apologize for his actions.

"Brazil doesn't deserve that," Lochte said to Globo. "I am sorry that my immaturity caused all this ruckus."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.